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28 Nov 2005 : Column 208W—continued

Inspection Regimes

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment the Government have made of the number of inspection regimes by which local authorities are regulated. [30444]

Mr. Woolas: The following bodies carry out inspections within local authorities in England:

Significant progress has been made to better target inspections where they will do most good and to improve the timing and co-ordination of inspections. The effectiveness of inspection can still be improved, and we are working with all those who inspect local government to deliver this. The cost of these inspections are not borne by the local authorities directly.

IT Projects

Dr. Cable: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) how many of the IT projects costing over £1 million in use in his Department and introduced since 1997 have been scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee; and if he will list them; [26600]

(2) how many IT projects which cost over £1 million and were introduced since 1997 are in use in his Department. [26601]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) was created in May 2002. There have been seven ODPM IT projects with a value in excess of £1 million which produced systems that are currently in use in ODPM, and which came into live service after that date.

None have been scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee.
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Licensing Act

Mark Hunter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the implications of the Licensing Act 2003 in determining the 2006–07 revenue support grant for local authorities in England. [30174]

Mr. Woolas: The Licensing Act 2003 devolves power to local authorities. The aim is to set the level of fees to cover local authorities' responsibilities under the Act.

There is currently an independent review panel looking into the fees local authorities are collecting as part of the Act. We are waiting for the report from the panel which will assess if the fees set centrally to cover any additional setting up costs local authorities are facing for administration, inspection and enforcement are adequate. We will shortly be announcing the provisional local government finance settlement, which will cover 2006–07 and 2007–08.

Living Over the Shop

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on funding for the Living Over the Shop organisation. [28827]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister awarded contacts to Living Over the Shop in June 2004 and June 2005 for consultancy advice on follow-up work to the report of the Housing Above Shops Task Force. Those contracts have concluded. Further consideration is being given to ways of to maximise use of the existing stock, including potential housing units from redundant commercial space.

Local Authority Funding

Mark Hunter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the implications for local services in the event of an average increase of 1.5 per cent., not including education, to the 2006–07 revenue support grant to local authorities in England; and whether he would expect cuts to frontline services to ensue in such an event. [30175]

Mr. Woolas: The Government are committed to ensuring that local authorities can continue to deliver effective services without imposing excessive increases in council tax. We have yet to announce our proposals for the funding of revenue spending by councils in 2006–07. We have been working with the Local Government Association to identify the main pressures facing local authorities and how they can best be mitigated. We will shortly be announcing the provisional local government settlement for 2006–07 and 2007–08. It will then be up to individual authorities to set their budgets and council tax levels. It will not be possible for authorities to compare the increase in general grant to the increases provided in previous settlements because of the introduction of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). DSG is funded wholly through grant from Government, so council tax will fund higher proportion of other services.

Mobile Telephone Masts

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will take steps to bring mobile telephone
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masts of all sizes under stricter planning control; if he will apply the precautionary principle in doing so; and if he will make a statement. [31166]

Yvette Cooper: All ground based masts are already subject to planning control so that if the local authority considers that the development will pose a serious threat to amenity, it is able to refuse approval. For masts over 15 metres in height a planning application is required. For masts under 15 metres in height a prior approval application is required.

The Government have adopted the precautionary approach recommended by the Stewart Group.

National Brownfield Strategy

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the progress of the National Brownfield strategy in bringing hardcore derelict sites into use. [28894]

Yvette Cooper: English Partnerships has been asked to develop a National Brownfield strategy in its role as expert adviser on brownfield land. The strategy will provide for the first time a coherent national vision for the future development of brownfield land and will act as a toolkit for site owners and developers. Good progress is being made. English Partnerships is developing a pilot programme of feasibility studies on 14 brownfield sites to help inform development of the strategy, an initial programme of workshops with leading stakeholders has been completed and a wider public consultation is planned for early 2006.


Vera Baird: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the likely impact of public funding for the 2012 Olympic Games on the availability of English Partnerships funding for projects in the Tees Valley over the next five years. [29762]

Yvette Cooper: No such assessment has been carried out in relation to public funding for the 2012 Olympic Games and projects in the Tees Valley. English Partnerships, working with the Urban Regeneration Companies, including Tees Valley Regeneration, decide which projects to support in accordance with their Corporate Plan priorities as approved by Ministers, their available budgets, the quality and value for money of any proposed project, and its effectiveness in meeting sustainable communities objectives and the regeneration needs of the area.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Olympic precept will be excluded from his calculations for the purposes of capping local authorities' budgets. [29833]

Mr. Woolas: Capping is applied to an authority's own budget requirement, which would not include any precepts local authorities were required to raise on behalf of precepting authorities. The element that relates to the 2012 Olympic games will be precepted by the Greater London assembly (GLA). If the GLA was judged to have set an excessive budget requirement, it is the GLA which would be capped—not London boroughs.
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No decisions have been taken about capping in 2006–07 and beyond, but the Government will not hesitate to use their capping powers to protect council taxpayers from excessive council tax increases in future years.

Public Sector Leasehold Working Party

David Lepper: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister who the members are of the Public Sector Leasehold Working Party; when it last met; when it is next scheduled to meet; if he will place in the Library and on his Department's website the minutes of its meetings; and what its programme of work is. [29522]

Yvette Cooper: The Public Sector Leaseholders Working Party last met in May 2003. The party is currently being reconstituted as a smaller but sufficiently representative group, to be known as the Social Sector Leaseholders Working Party, under the Chairmanship of the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE). LEASE has recently sent invitations to a range of representative bodies seeking membership and is currently awaiting responses. The first meeting, which will be arranged as soon as possible, is expected to take place early in the new year, and the minutes of the meetings will be placed on the LEASE website.

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